While NFL agents all over the country are anxious for the league's labor dispute to come to an end so they can get back to work, Joe Linta is already hard at work studying film.
Oddly enough, the tapes are not of his current and potential millionaire clients, but instead, the high school players he'll coach this fall.
Linta, founder of JL Sports, which represents over 40 NFL clients, has been hired to coach the varsity football team at
Hamden Hall Country Day (Hamden, Conn.)
, a small private school nestled on a 12-acre campus near New Haven.
"Joe is a smart, charismatic, and hard-working guy," said the school's headmaster, Bob Izzo. "In a very short period of time he has created a positive buzz around the football program and throughout the school community. We are fortunate to have such a terrific coach leading our program."
Naturally, the first question that immediately comes to mind is why someone in Linta's position as an NFL agent would want to coach high school football.
"I love the game," said Linta, who early in his career was an assistant at Yale University and the University of New Haven. "I'm not getting paid to do this. I can't cook or change the oil in my car, but I'm pretty good at this so it's not like work. It's not work when you love what you are doing.
"I feel really good about influencing the lives of these young men and directing them in a way I feel is going to influence their integrity and ethics, and help them become successful young men. It's not always about football, but life lessons and teaching them how to succeed off the field."
Two of Linta's players are very familiar with the coach's off-the-field expectations. Nick Linta
, a junior wide receiver and long snapper, and T.J. Linta
, a sophomore quarterback, transferred from nearby Branford High School for the opportunity to play for their father.
"I am looking forward to playing for my dad because he knows more about football than anyone I know," Nick said in a text message. "I think that he is the right guy for the job and will use all the talent on our team the right way."
Joe reiterated that taking the job at Hamden Hall was a package deal for the family.
"The passion I have to coach high school football is because of my sons," said Joe, who served as a volunteer assistant at Branford High the past two seasons. "I was fortunate to find a situation and have an opportunity at a very good prep school close to our house that had an open coaching job. If I wasn't coaching at Hamden, [my sons] would have stayed at Branford. And if they had stayed at Branford, I wouldn't be coaching at Hamden. It's just that all the moons lined up."
Now that the galaxy is set, so is the stage for Joe to begin molding players of various skill levels into one cohesive team. And as he does, the rookie head coach explained that he plans to not only draw on his own coaching experiences, but also will rely on what he learned from his college coach, Carmen Cozza.
"Carmen Cozza is without a doubt the finest human being on the face of the earth," Joe said of his mentor, who he served under as an assistant from 1985 to 1991. "He's the biggest influence on me coaching-wise, no doubt. I often catch myself saying stuff he said: 'Family first. No swearing on the field.' Things like that."
Now enjoying retirement, Cozza recalled Joe's days on the Yale coaching staff and was quick to point out the top quality he feels Joe will bring to a high school program.
"Joe was really a student of the game and wanted to learn every facet of it," said Cozza, who led Yale to 10 Ivy League titles during his 32-year coaching career. "He was willing to work with any aspect of the game and was very enthusiastic with the young people, and that is why I liked him coaching our freshmen."
Like any good teacher, Cozza had one last piece of advice for his former pupil: "I used to tell my assistant coaches to treat the players like they are your sons. You might have to be tough and discipline them, but always hug them when they need it. And that's what I would tell Joe. And I think he'll be that way."
Joe knows what his biggest challenge will be: "I have to lessen my expectations and understand my players are not at that level. I'm currently studying a lot of film of college and pro quarterbacks who might someday be my clients. I have to remember that my son, for instance, is not one of them."
One player Joe has studied extensively is one of his best-known clients, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The 2009 Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year said that he thinks the new Hamden Hall head coach will have instant success, with not only his players, but their biggest fans – the parents.
"Joe is definitely an agent who watches the game and has an eye for talent," Flacco said in a phone interview shortly after returning from his honeymoon. "Joe's been around young athletes for a long time and knows what he's doing and will teach them the right things.
"He'll be honest with the parents and tell them from the beginning his intentions, and they'll respect that."
While some parents might question the coach's ability to balance his new position with his full-time job, Joe says the busiest time for an NFL agent is from November through June. He also points out that ultimately it is his job as an NFL agent that will open even more doors for his high school players.
"My agent business is not a conflict, but more of an asset," he stressed. "I already know the college coaches, or if I don't, when I do talk to the coaches they are impressed I represent classy NFL players with incredible integrity. When I call for these kids the coaches will generally talk to me."
One of the first "calls" Joe made in his new role was to schedule 10 games for the Hornets, increasing by two the number the school has traditionally played.
"I want to create a culture of accountability and that if we are going to do it we are going to be good at it," he said. "And the bottom line is the kids want to play more games."
Flacco, who admitted that his Audubon High (N.J.) team struggled throughout his career, pointed out that the most important thing is not necessarily winning, but for high school kids to get to play as much as possible. And he was quick to acknowledge that Joe is the perfect person to improve the football atmosphere at Hamden Hall.
"High school kids need to play and learn to deal with the adversity that comes with that," Flacco said. "Joe will make football more important than it is there right now. The biggest thing is to get the interest up and get guys out for the team. Joe will do that and people will react positively."
Joe's debut as head coach is Sept. 17 when the Hornets take on Long Island Lutheran. Despite that first game being two months away, the coach says he already has a good idea of what he'll be feeling when he takes the field for the first time with his team: "I can't believe I'm doing this … but I'm so glad I am." Jon Buzby is a sports columnist for the Newark (Del.) Post, a freelance writer, and on the broadcast team for the 1290AM The Ticket High School Football and Basketball Games of the Week. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.